Giving notice at work

So you’ve landed a new dream job and you can’t wait to get started, but annoyingly you have to give notice to leave your current job. So how do you do it? How much notice do you have to give? What are the consequences of leaving before your notice period? Join us as we explain everything you need to know about giving notice at work.

A young woman is giving notice at work. This is a wide-angle image.

How much notice do I have to give?

Legally, as long as you’ve been at your job for over a month, you have to give at least one week’s notice. Although your contract can specify longer – usually at least a month. So be sure to check your employment contract beforehand.

While it’s tempting to think you’ve got nothing to lose if you simply stop coming to work, that really isn’t the case. Failing to complete your notice period could land you in court. To avoid this, book an appointment with your boss and, in the nicest possible way, tell them you’re leaving. Get the exact details of what they expect from you before you do. 

We have more advice on how to resign from a job here. And you can also learn more about employment contracts here.

Can I leave before my notice period?

In short, not really.

“Leaving before your notice period has finished is considered a breach of contract,” says Sue Terry from Acas. “Companies can actually take former employees to the civil court for leaving before their notice period is up.”

Not to mention, doing the old Irish goodbye ahead of time can also affect your reference. “Future employers will often ask for references from previous employers, and they need to be factual and fair,” says Sue. “Just bear in mind that if you leave before your contract expires, then it could be put on a reference.” For more info, read our expert answer on when an employer can give you a bad reference here.

How to leave early after giving notice

“In some jobs, such as sales, they may want you to leave early. They’ll still expect you to give notice to leave the job but they may waive the notice period. This is cause they’re afraid you might take customers away,” explains Sue.

If you’re moving to work for a competitor, you may also be asked to leave to prevent you accessing confidential company information. Otherwise, if you’ve finished whatever you were working on, your employer may just be nice and let you go early. Plus, it also saves them paying you when there isn’t the work to give you.

It’s worth noting that if you leave early, you won’t be paid for the time you don’t work. The only exception is if your employee has asked you to leave (in which case they’ll pay you in lieu of notice).

Working out your notice period

Just because you’ve given notice at work, that doesn’t mean the terms and conditions of your employment contract have changed. This applies for both you and your soon-to-be-ex boss: you still need to work the hours contracted and your employer still needs to honour any sick and holiday pay. You should also know that your outstanding holidays can be taken as part of your notice period.

Remember, an employer has a duty to treat you fairly up until the day you leave. So if you suddenly find yourself being bullied or discriminated against because of your decision to leave then you have grounds to take action against them. To find out more, read our article on being bullied at work here and on discrimination at work here.

How to give notice to leave a job

Generally speaking, you can give notice that you’re leaving in one of two ways. You can either formally resign by giving notice verbally, directly to your employer, or you can write a resignation letter/notice letter. The route you end up going usually depends on the work environment and the relationship you have with your boss. But regardless of how you resign from a job, there are some simple do’s and don’ts that it’s best to follow when giving notice at work.


  • Draft or write a simple letter of resignation using resignation letter templates or letter samples, starting with something like ‘please accept this letter of resignation’; even if you’re going to have the conversation in person. It’ll help you work out what exactly you want to say and can be used as evidence if necessary.
  • Try to leave on good terms – even if it’s the last thing you wanna do.
  • Check if company perks still apply in your notice period. Your contract, company handbook or intranet should spell this out for you
  • Make sure that you’re leaving as smoothly as possible – you may need to write handover notes or help train someone else. Maybe even leave your email address in case your replacement has any questions.


  • Swipe the company’s confidential information. For example, your contacts book or client list. It’ll just end up coming back to bite you in the ass
  • Be a moaner – sure, you’re fed up with the place but your colleagues still have to stay there

Stop making an effort – you may have quit, but your contract hasn’t expired just yet. And you can still get sacked up to your final day of work, even if you’ve resigned from your job!

Next Steps


leaving work

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 08-Jun-2022